Romney Blames Consultants
For Thompson Parody Site
A spokesman for Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson today blasted GOP rival Mitt Romney for a "half-baked cover-up attempt" in the case of an anti-Thompson website.
In a statement, Todd Harris called for an immediate apology from Romney and again demanded that the Romney campaign terminate anyone involved in the website's creation.
"This latest episode only serves to prove what many voters are already figuring out: Mitt Romney will do anything, say anything, smear any opponent and flip flop on any position in order to win," Harris said. "The American people in general and the Republican Party in particular deserve better than this."
Romney officials today blamed the web site on an employee of one the former Massachusetts governor's top consultants in South Carolina.
Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said the employee, Wesley Donehue, created the website phoneyfred.org without the approval of the campaign. Madden said the campaign ordered the site removed when they received calls from the media about it.
"The site has no direct affiliation to our campaign and we had no knowledge of its development," Madden said. "We discovered it was created by an individual who apparently parked the site temporarily on the company server space of a firm whose financial partner is a consultant to the campaign."
Madden's comments came as Thompson's advisers have demanded an apology for the attack website, which described Thompson in unflattering ways and appeared to be filled with opposition research about the former senator.
"If this is true, Governor Romney should exercise some of his much-touted executive acumen and immediately terminate anyone related to this outrage," Thompson spokesman Todd Harris said late Monday evening.
Madden insisted that Donehue is "not an employee of the Romney campaign," and his name does not appear in the financial disclosures that presidential candidates are required to make with the Federal Election Commission.
But Donehue is clearly an employee of several firms which have been paid tens of thousands of dollars by Romney.
The firm Tompkins, Thompson, Sullivan has received $37,596 from Romney's campaign, most of it for "Political strategy consulting." The web site for that firm has been taken down, but a recent page cached by Google lists him as an "associate consultant and vice president" of the firm.
"As the first associate consultant and vice president of TTS, Wesley Donehue runs the daily operations of the firm. Despite being only 27 years old, he is one of the most experienced operatives in the state," the site says.
The firm is run by Warren Tompkins -- Romney's senior adviser in South Carolina -- and Terry Sullivan, who is on Romney's payroll as the South Carolina state director.
The company Under the Power Lines, which describes itself as an internet consulting firm, lists Donehue as a "Partner/Consultant." The phoneyfred.org website was hosted on the same server as the Under the Power Lines website.
Donehue is also listed as an "Associate" in a direct mail firm called On the Mark Direct, which has been paid $146,018 by Romney's campaign for printing.
A Romney ally points out that just working for a firm like Tompkins doesn't necessarily mean that person is working for Romney. Heath Thompson, another partner in the firm, is reportedly a Giuliani guy.
Asked whether Donehue should be fired, Madden said that it is not up to Romney to decide that. "He has no role with the Romney campaign," Madden said. He said the campaign will not sever ties with Tompkins or Sullivan because they have told Romney officials that they knew nothing about the development of the website.
Some South Carolina consultants are skeptical of that claim.
"The notion that Romney and them are going to throw one [person] under the bus is just nuts," said one longtime GOP operative in South Carolina. "it just didn't happen that way."
The companies Donehue works for are part of a large political operation founded by Tompkins, a longtime adviser to the late former governor, Carroll Campbell, who is known for his bare-knuckles approach to politics.
Tompkins ran the South Carolina campaign operation for George W. Bush in 2000 and led a concerted effort to defeat Bush's chief rival that year, John McCain. Romney has paid him $12,000 a month for political advice.
In an e-mail, Tompkins said he did not know anything about the phoneyfred.org site.
"I did not know about a web site and quite frankly am very internet dysfunctional," he wrote. "Anyone who knows me would laugh at the prospect of my even being involved in such an undertaking."
Donehue could not be reached for comment.
--Michael D. Shear
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